1st Edition

Bringing Talk to Life: Thinking Through Dialogue in The Classroom

By Paul Gurton, Meghan Tipping Copyright 2025
    188 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    188 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Do you want to encourage purposeful talk between students in your classroom, but feel you do not have the time or the permission? Do you wish you had more opportunity to listen to your students and include discussion of pressing and controversial issues in their lives and society today in your curriculum?  Amidst rising recognition of how being articulate improves life chances, this book takes a look at these questions, outlining an alternative approach to curriculum and pedagogy.

    Bringing Talk to Life is firmly grounded in classroom experience and research evidence and explores how a dialogic approach to teaching can improve students’ confidence and agency and restore teachers’ professional judgement. It outlines the social and linguistic barriers some students find in accessing knowledge through the school curriculum and identifies ways that teachers can help them become more confident and articulate by modelling different behavioural norms and introducing concept vocabulary in an accessible way.

    Using transcripts of classroom dialogues, teachers’ plans and examples of students’ work, chapters show by contrast that a talk-focussed, enquiry curriculum can free up teachers and pupils to explore ideas together, reigniting curiosity. Examples of this dialogic approach come from primary classrooms where Philosophy for Children (P4C) is adapted to suit a school’s aims and curriculum. In addition, there are chapters on how talk is used in Further and Higher Education to develop students’ critical thinking skills.

    Designed to stimulate thinking and debate, and restore teachers’ confidence in their own professional judgement, this book is intended for those training to be teachers. It will also be of interest for schools that are keen learn how to include more talk in their curriculum, and experienced practitioners who feel that there is another way to plan and teach.

    Foreword (Professor Peter Lavender)


    Part I - Learning through talk

    Chapter 1: Learning to talk

    Chapter 2: Talking to learn

    Chapter 3: Talk and social mobility

    Chapter 4: Teaching talk

    Chapter 5: Talk as a tool for thinking

    Chapter 6: Learning without objectives

    Chapter 7: Philosophical talk: making learning meaningful

    Part II - What is possible when you engage your students in dialogue

    Chapter 8: Establishing first principles: aims, meaning and purpose in education

    Chapter 9: Bringing it together: developing a concept curriculum

    Chapter 10: Developing agency through talk: a year in year 6

    Chapter 11: How talking with your class can liberate your teaching

    Chapter 12: Bringing talk to life: tackling controversial issues

    Chapter 13: The place and value of talk in Further Education (author Sue Lay)

    Chapter 14: Using talk to demystify critical thinking in Higher Education (author Hilary Wason)

    Chapter 15: Talk is the answer





    Paul Gurton was a primary school teacher, head teacher, and a Senior Lecturer in Primary Teacher Education at the University of Wolverhampton, UK.

    Meghan Tipping is an experienced primary school teacher currently working in the Education and Heritage sectors.

    'This book makes a persuasive case for the role of classroom talk as a means of developing students’ critical thinking and empowerment. The arguments are grounded in an exploration of the purposes of education and of talk as a pedagogical strategy, but also linked to specific examples from practice, including the journey of discovery of one teacher and her class. Educators interested in a principled and informed approach to using spoken language as a tool for authentic pupil voice and agency will find much of interest here.' 

    Rupert Knight, Associate Professor, School of Education, University of Nottingham, author of Classroom Talk and Classroom Talk in Practice


    'There is much empirical evidence and intellectual argument for the power of talk in education—especially philosophical talk—and this book is a welcome addition to a growing body of work. But in this book, you will also find the voices of real teacher-educators, teachers and students whose horizons have been significantly expanded by speaking, listening and thinking together. These authentic transcripts and testimonies reveal how the practice of rich, reasoned dialogue motivates learners to find the world and each other more interesting, and how the sustained practice of dialogic pedagogy (such as P4C) equips and inspires educators to help them. At a time when education seems in perpetual crisis, these voices offer hope that things can get better, one conversation at a time.'

    Grace Lockrobin, Director of Philosophy and Education, SAPERE (Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education)


    'This book is an insightful introduction to the importance of talk and how to make it central to education for all ages. The authors show how putting talk centre stage enables deep learning, thinking together and the ability for students of all ages to grapple with concepts central to how we understand the world and our place in it. At the heart of it is the example of one school’s practice, an approach which I have witnessed first-hand and find truly inspiring.'

    Helen Griffin, Development Education Centre, South Yorkshire, author of Gender Equality in Primary Schools: A Guide for Teachers.